Lagos State governor, Babajide Sanwo-Olu, in this interview with State House correspondents gave an insight on how the state is handling the second wave of the COVID-pandemic. He also spoke on some other matters. JONATHAN NDA- ISAIAH presents the excerpts
On why he met the President.
I was here early December last year. I have had my own share of COVID-19 positivity. But more importantly is to come in and wish the President happy new year and to say to him that I wish the government all the very best. And to be able to brief him about the recent happenings in Lagos and some state of affairs, especially around the COVID-19 second wave that we are witnessing in Lagos in particular being the epicentre. Our efforts, some of our challenges and how we believe that we can further collaborate with the Federal Government, NCDC and all of it, great work we are all doing. I think as the Commander-in-Chief, it is important for me to give him a heads start. Other matters were around some collaborative efforts that the state can enjoy with the federal government. It is collaborative, they are win-win opportunities that we see with the federal government has brought some of these economic opportunities to his notice and what we are doing and how we believe that the federal government can help accelerate and fast track some of those opportunities because you all know Lagos is the commercial nerve centre of the country and so we need to very early in the year start up on economic programmes and activities that can improve not only our friends that are in investment but also make Lagos an investor destination in the country.
I also briefed him about the security situation in Lagos and how we could still further enhance and make the place a lot more business friendly. All the support we are currently receiving and how we can tweak and improve on all of these supports especially with some federal government agencies. It is really a working trip with Mr. President and it was an opportunity for me to brief him to share some of the things we are doing and for him to set some specific ideas on around how we can take some of those initiatives up. But specifically the one I think is touching all of us is COVID-19.
What are the security issues?
No, it is not anything out of place, the place is peaceful. We have had some infrastructural issues. We have not been able to bring up all of our police stations that were unfortunately destroyed in October last year, so it is one of the things that I brought up. We are trying to see how we can very quickly make available all of the requirements of the Lagos State Police Command so that they can be a lot more responsible to their responsibilities.
Talking about COVID-19, how bad is the situation in Lagos?
On COVID-19, it’s actually a very serious case. We’ve all said it, we are in the second wave and incidentally, the second wave seems to be a bit more infectious than the first one. I mean the rate of infection and the number of people that we have seen. We still remain the epicentre, so what we’ve done is we never stopped building capacity.
Two things that we are doing now is communication and we are taking it to the grassroots to let people know that they need to take full responsibility and know that even for their loved ones they need to be real with themselves and know that COVID-19 is real, is with us and is not just something playing in their heads.
We’ve seen, unfortunately, the fatality rate around the country, even in Lagos. One of the things we’ve realised is that a lot more people require oxygen attention, they need additional breathing aid, so we have started building what we call oxygen tent, oxygen facilities, we are building about 10 of such facilities. We’ve commissioned about four or five of them and we are also building proper oxygen plants, additional to oxygen plants in the state so that we can meet the respiratory requirements.
We understand more than where we were 10 to eight months ago, so we know what the treatment should be so we are better positioned for that. We are also doing a lot more testing in Lagos than we were doing five to six months ago: we are doing almost 3,000/2,500 tests everyday, so we are watching the rate of positivity that we have, which is also high. It has moved from the usual 10 to 12 percent and we are now seeing positivity rate of about 25 and sometimes 30%. That is actually very disturbing.
So we are positioning ourselves to be able to continue to make it efficient for our citizens. Yes, they’ll get it, but once they come in, sometimes it could be home care, you will get well at the end of the day. But the ones that are severe, because we have categorised the cases as mild, moderate and severe, some serious mild and severe cases that will need additional care, have to come to our facilities. These are some of the things that we’ve had the facilities ready for.
I think the major thing is for our citizens to take responsibility and to know and appreciate that COVID-19 is real and they need to obey all the protocols that have been set out for them to obey.
Rebuilding Lagos after #EndSARS#
Is also some of the things I discussed with Mr President. Its work in progress. To take something down it takes one day, to rebuild it may take 10 years. It’s a journey, not a destination. And so it’s going to take a while. We are carefully taking a proper study to know what we need to do, taking our time to get it right but we’ve started something. Businesses that were affected, some businesses that were affected, somebody having their shops looted or burnt or something. We’ve been able to directly begin to support such businesses, especially on a micro, small level using the Lagos state employment trust fund. They have started intervening and supporting some of these small businesses, giving them grants, giving them soft loans and making sure that they can come back together very very quickly.
The bigger larger items around infrastructure, around transportation, they will take a fairly longer time. We’re talking about a period that is still under three months. So, its still a working document that we are doing right now and we also have to be very creative in how we raise the finance. We didn’t have money anywhere, you know it was towards the end of a financial year and we’re just starting another year. So, is to be able to make budgetary provisions for these things and be able to raise required funding, both support from the private sector and also from the public sector before we can begin to reconstruct some of those huge infrastructure. But we have them all focused and will be tackling them. But the low hanging …. like I said are the small businesses that we’ve started supporting so that people can get back to life very very quickly.